A detailed list of America’s most active Second Amendment shakers and movers, and why they’re on this list

By: Edward Ross

There’s a battle going on in the United States to save a very rare and controversial human right: the private ownership of small arms.

That battle is led by a small, diverse cadre of unique people – some of whom are national figures while others go below the radar screen of the average American.

Believe it or not, they do not represent a monolithic opinion.

Some are on this list because they head large organizations and clearly are involved at every level, but that doesn’t mean they’re “heroes” to Second Amendment advocates.  In some cases, you want to follow them because, frankly, they’re dangerous to your rights.

GunPowder Magazine lists the Top 20 most influential advocates for the Second Amendment.  You can treat this as a definitive list of people to watch and follow if you care about your right to keep and bear arms.

Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

1. Wayne LaPierre – No list would be complete without the leader of the NRA. He has been at the helm for many decades, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change soon. Recent corruption allegations pale in comparison to the concerns about the NRA’s regular capitulation on virtually every front, giving rise to a new nickname for Mr. LaPierre: The French Surrender Monkey.  LaPierre is anything but a gun person, as you can see from his botched elephant hunt, where his guide has to hold his rifle for a point-blank shot. LaPierre’s Beverly Hills shopping trips on members’ dime and private jet antics have led to the NRA’s stock tanking.  The real question is which group will take the NRA’s abdicated position. Regardless, LaPierre still steers a large ship, even if it is headed in the wrong direction, and only a fool would ignore this man’s maneuverings.

Photo via National Association for Gun Rights

2. Dudley Brown – Brown leads the National Association for Gun Rights, which IRS records show is larger than all other groups but the NRA. Brown cut his teeth lobbying for gun owners in state legislatures 30 years ago, and some are surprised when a deep dive into the 2A issue reveals it’s Brown and his staff who are the real engine behind grassroots 2A activism such as constitutional carry (in state legislatures), the defeat of Toomey-Manchin (in Congress), and now even in courts, with more than half a dozen lawsuits against assault weapon and magazine bans. Dudley regularly touts that he’s the only gun rights leader who’s an actual gun person (which his YouTube channel amply illustrates), while his detractors say his criticisms of the NRA are detrimental to unity in the movement. Insiders claim Brown could be the heir apparent to the 2A throne, though nothing would displease the NRA more.

Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

3. Congressman Thomas Massie – First elected from Kentucky in 2012, Massie quickly became the leading voice on 2A issues in Congress. Massie is himself a self-described “gun nut” and isn’t shy about his obsession.  Massie has sponsored legislation to get rid of the Gun-Free School Zones Act, remove all restrictions on suppressors and a host of other measures and amendments aimed at getting the government out of restricting law-abiding firearms owners.  He’s now chairman of the House Second Amendment caucus, and he sits on the Judiciary, where many gun issues are debated and where Massie’s legendary wit has become the bane of gun banners. Watch some of his recent antics in committee grilling gun banners, and you’ll understand.

Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

4. Justice Clarence Thomas – Though he doesn’t fit in this list by the strictest definition, he wrote the majority opinion in the 2022 NYSRPA v. Bruen decision, forever changing the landscape of the legal wranglings on the Second Amendment. No longer will courts be able to ignore the constitution with their two-part “balancing” test – Thomas’ Bruen ruling says the founding fathers already did the balancing.  Now, any bans must fit within the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment.  This is nothing short of earth-shattering to gun control nuts and how Thomas earned his spot on this list.

United States Senate, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

5. Rand Paul – Another Kentuckian, Rand was very new to the U.S. Senate when he filibustered the post-Sandyhook gun control package being pushed by Obama, Dems, and even some Republicans. Paul’s libertarian roots make him a natural ally to those unwilling to compromise, and he hasn’t been shy about using Senate procedure to present roadblocks to legislation that would restrict 2A rights. His 2016 Presidential campaign saw him being dis-invited to the NRA convention because he was “more pro-gun than the NRA.”

Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

6. Ted Nugent – The motor city madman made his name in rock and roll but became a figurehead for the Second Amendment. His sway is certainly diminishing, as his political acumen is suspect and his penchant for bombastic statements gets him in trouble frequently.  In the end, though, “Uncle Ted” is a one-man band who has failed to build a legacy that will outlast him.

Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

7. Mike Lee – Utah’s senior Senator, Lee was once considered as a nominee to the US Supreme Court. Lee sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the sponsor of the SHUSH Act, which changes the classification of suppressors from NFA items into nothing – like a bipod or scope. When the Senate fights on liberty issues – especially the Second Amendment – Mike Lee is always on the right side.

Photo via gunowners.org

8. Erich Pratt – The leader of Gun Owners of America followed in his father Larry’s footsteps. Pratt is a deep thinker and stellar writer, and he knows his way around political circles as well.  His organization has decent name ID, but they may not be dynamic enough to take the mantle abdicated by the NRA’s fall.

SAF/CCRKBA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

9. Alan Gottlieb – Diminutive and smarmy, Gottlieb sits at the head of the Second Amendment Foundation and The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Gottlieb got in hot water when in 2013 he endorsed the Toomey Manchin gun control package. With friends like that, who needs enemies? His stock has plummeted since then, and it appears he is folding his operations into FPC (see #19).

Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

10. Dana Loesch – Dana has a background in journalism but built her brand as an NRA spokesperson. She eventually was tangled up in the Ackerman-McQueen debacle that led to the closing of NRA TV, but her reputation was already built, and she’s now a radio talk show host and a regular commentator on Second Amendment issues.

Photo via National Shooting Sports Foundation

11. Larry Keane – Deeply embedded in the industry group the National Shooting Sports Association, Keane plays loosely with principles but holds manufacturers closely. NSSF is widely known to be the left side of the 2A equation if they can even be considered to support the Second Amendment, but they are definitely involved – usually in favor of more government control.  Watch them carefully.

Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

12. Kyle Rittenhouse – Thrust into the limelight by rioters, this good Samaritan was just a kid and endured enormous pressure because of his criminal trial. The left continues to vilify him as a vigilante, making normal life difficult for the 20-year-old.  He didn’t ask for it, but Kyle is now a part of the gun culture.

Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

13. John Cornyn – The senior center from Texas has the #2 position for the Senate Republicans, and he uses it to great effect – usually to pass gun control. Cornyn was the driving force in the summer of 2022 to craft a federal Red Flag law with Democrats and also passed a 2018 law that greatly expands the prohibited person gun database.  Cornyn’s antics got him booed off the stage of the Texas GOP state convention in 2022, but he remains part of the Senate landscape.  Gun owners should always monitor this chameleon, who regularly touts his NRA A+ rating (??).

Photo via Mossberg

14. Colion Noir – A former NRA News host, this son of Nigerian immigrants has a fresh take on Second Amendment issues from a black American’s perspective. He’s a law school graduate and has a large YouTube following, though his departure from the NRA was reported to be acrimonious.

Photo via theakguy.com

15. Brandon Herrera – This Texas native is relatively new to the scene but has a cult-like following on YouTube. His off-color humor and “AK Jesus” label have earned him an influential role in Second Amendment issues, with massive viewership and fresh takes on 2A issues.

Office of the Solicitor General, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

16. Paul Clement – Clement was Solicitor General in the George W. Bush administration, which gave him a tremendous amount of experience arguing before the Supreme Court. He has used that experience to great advantage in the Second Amendment area. Clement appeared as an amicus in Heller and McDonald. Most importantly, Clement was the main lawyer in Bruen.

Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

17. Chris McNutt – Speaking of Texas, this former NAGR (see #2 on this list) staff member is the leader of Texas Gun Rights, a growing force in a mammoth state. McNutt played a key role in forcing Constitutional Carry through a reluctant and belligerent Texas legislature and into law.  Despite the reputation, Texas has been somewhat schizophrenic on the issue, and it’s taken an experienced hand to stop it from going sideways – and McNutt is just that.  Time magazine featured McNutt in their “Guns in America” edition.

Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

18. Donald J. Trump – Love him or hate him, Trump is a major player in conservative issues. Despite his pronouncement that he would end the war on guns, Trump’s Administration proceeded to set all-time records for supporting gun controls, starting with the disastrous bump stock ban in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, proceeding on to work deals with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, supporting Red Flag, agreeing to raise the minimum age for firearms purchase… this article can’t cover it all.  Gun owners who don’t pay attention to 2A issues can thump their MAGA chest, but outside of his SCOTUS appointments (which critics argue any Republican President would have made), Trump is nothing short of a disaster.

19. Brandon Combs – As the leader of the Firearms Policy Coalition, Brandon is an attorney who – like his organization — isn’t well known in the 2A circles but is very involved on the litigation side. Critics say he’s secretive and his organization opaque (which is troubling as a non-profit, which is supposed to be transparent), but there’s no doubt they are an up-and-coming player.

20. Nikki Goeser – Serving as a staff member to Professor John Lott, Nikki has a long history in the 2A movement. She is the human interaction part of the equation. As Lott is well-known for being a prickly statistics savant who can spout numbers but is incapable of normal human interaction, Goeser is personable and a major asset.

Honorable Mention

Marion Hammer – Though this may be better listed as a political obituary, Hammer was once the NRA’s President and has made her mark lobbying the state of Florida.  Recently, it became clear that she has made massive amounts of cash while covering the tracks of Florida’s worst swamp-infesting Republicans, including those who passed the 2018 gun control package.  After the terrible press and corruption allegations, her gig is now up – and she’s had no choice but to retire to her cat house.

Taylor Rhodes – Though relatively young, the new face to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Gun Owners appears to be the up-and-coming, combative 2A leader we all want and need.  A Southerner, he was thrust into the role – as Dudley Brown (#2 on this list) focused on his national group.  Colorado is now an entirely blue state, but recently Rhodes managed to defeat a certain-to-pass assault weapons ban.  This mountain of a man (6’8”) is someone to watch to move up our list.

Tim Schmidt – The leader of the United States Concealed Carry Association is a first-class salesman and has developed fantastic training materials that are unrivaled and sorely needed.  His for-profit company is ubiquitous in the firearms circles, and though it’s not a political group it regularly speaks about the cause.